Sunday, November 13, 2005

Fate, Friends and Fish-(Part One)

They arrived Thursday night around 7:30 in the P.M., making the 6.5 hour trip from Beaufort, S.C. to our home in Beaufort, N.C. in Scott's SUV. It was packed to the gills with duffle bags, backpacks, tackle boxes, about ten fishing rods, cold weather clothes including fleece, ski bibs and what we in the south call toboggans (knit hats). Scott also brought us a great gift, a 7-foot art deco palm tree for the back porch with large, green holographic leaves that is ringed with lights. The guys all piled out and after handshakes and hugs all around we drank some toddies and fell into a routine that is so familiar to us that you would think we were working from a script. One of the things about having great and close friends is that expectations are always met and usually surpassed-our time together at any one time is relatively brief,two or three days max, and we know that we will cram the most fun we can into that brief time. The brief visits also force us to savor every waking moment-life is short and unpredictable and we never take for granted our time together. I marvel at the twists and turns of fate that have brought me together with my close circle of friends-they are all so special to me in their individual ways and have kept me halfway sane and if the truth be known, probably alive. I consider them the family I never really had and if I died tomorrow, I would still be the luckiest and most blessed person on earth (pardon me, Lou Gehrig).

With few exceptions, I can trace most of my present friendships to my friend and ex-boss Tom Keith, who hired me as a prosecutor in 1991 when I was completely burned out on the practice of law and looking for any escape-digging ditches and scraping the barnacles off the bottom of boats were attractive alternatives back then. When he hired me, I suddenly had a large, new group of friends. My fellow Assistant DA's (about 15 in number) were a scary-talented, fun loving group, and along with the support staff, we were like a big, eccentric, slightly disfunctional family. We had our differences at times but we had each others backs all the time and we had to-the pressures and demands of the job; the dealing with victims whose distress caused them to be understandingly irrational; the challenge of actually keeping the sluggish, criminal court system running; trying to cram 20 pounds of crime into the one-pound bag our legislature provides us, and keeping competing interests reasonably content to at least forestall some sort of armed public insurrection. The job is tremendously stimulating and even sometimes satisfying but it's a 24/7 highwire act-my present boss calls it a job where you're constantly "jumping out of the way of speeding trains." Well put! One big mistake by anyone in the office in the wrong case can bring down the whole thing crashing down-your boss gets beat in the next election and it's likely you'll be back pounding the pavement trolling for clients or in my case, digging ditches. I would compare our situation to being in a company of soldiers who have been through heavy-combat together-we worked hard and played hard and the friendships forged between those I have worked with as a prosecutor in my old district and my new one have been extremely close and strong and our shared experiences will never be forgotten-we were and are, as they say in the military-a "band of brothers."

My group of fantastic South Carolina buddies that I now have can also be traced to my former office and is a perfect example of the random fate by which people are often brought together. This time fate was dealing to me "from the top of the deck." In the winter of 1995, I was introduced to my great friend Scott by his ex-girlfriend who had interned in our DA's office for half an semester while in law school. We hit it off immediately-his reckless and infectious passion for life, work or play, his incredible intellect and the fact that he is a person of action, not of words, make him the ideal friend. (As a matter of fact, all of my close friends have a similar mix of these same traits). We have done so much and been through so much together that I feel like I've known him my entire life- as a matter of fact, my stock answer when someone asks how long we've been friends is "ten years" and "forever." He is almost 13 years my junior, but I have learned a great deal from him in ten years- a situation he suffered through recently showed me that he had more character and class than I would ever be capable of had I been in the same situation. He has taught me things both "trivial"- like how to throw a cast net, how to pole a boat in shallow water and how to wade a grass flat for tailing redfish- and things profound-the simple beauty and the pleasures, contentment and happiness one could find living in a small, quaint coastal town. Without that "tutorial," I don't think I would have ever had the guts to leave the big city for my current paradise. We share a common passion for fishing-when we met we both were avid flyfishers and through the years we have fished in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. We have driven, flown and hiked to fishing destinations. We communicate like guys always communicate-through shared experiences rather than talking-drawing on these experiences, embellishing them and retelling them without ever tiring of doing so. We also share a common taste in music-I introduced him to Robert Earl Keen and over the years we have acquired, swapped and traded hundreds of CD's back and forth. Many great days and nights have been spent in his backyard, sitting in stone silence in his adirondack chairs, staring out over the Intracoastal Waterway, sipping on a cold beer-the stereo providing a non-stop musical backdrop. We have spent so much time at each other's homes that we have the art of visiting and hosting down to a science-the host is responsible for the following: getting the boat ready which includes having ample ice and beverages on board, gassing it up and making sure the appropriate tackle is stowed; cleaning up the house, making the bed and laying out fresh towels; making sure the beer cooler is well stocked and iced; making the necessary dinner reservations; planning the fishing trip after consulting local guides, the tide charts and the weather, and the purchasing of small tokens like t-shirts, koozies and the like as gifts for the visitor or visitors. The host also pays for everything or at least tries to over the mostly perfunctory objections of the visitor(s). The guest also does all the driving including the towing and launching of the boat. After arrival, everything in the visitor's car is brought in and dumped all over the house; any new gear or gadgets are brought out to show, and any new music is shared and played. On the day the visitor leaves, the guest is also responsible for helping the visitor locate their stuff-this is the toughest part-it could be anywhere-in someone's car, any room in the house, scattered in the yard, in the boat or in someone else's boat if we fished with them. I have on occasion, left coats and jackets in local restaurants. I can't remember one occasion when at least one item wasn't left behind, soon to be returned by mail or in person.

Scott has been my South Carolina "connector"-he has introduced me to dozens of folks that have become not only my friends but Jane's friends as well-friends like his girl Cristina; retired court reporter, Donna Hartley; Rob and Margaret Suber, his next-door neighbors; Jason Peavy; Jeff and Amy Purdy; Bus and Jenny Argoe and others too numerous to mention. Jeff and Jason have become terrific fishing buddies- the four of us have had some of the greatest times ever out in boats together-I laugh just thinking about the prospect. About four years ago, we started an annual Veteran's Day fishing weekend up here during the legendary false albacore run. The first year it was just me and Scott; the next year it was me, Scott and Jason; last year it was me, Scott, Jason and Jeff and this year Scott brought along Jeff and Patrick Mitchell, a guy I had never met but liked immediately. The weather cooperated perfectly-a cold front passed through Thursday night, cooling off the water and turning the fish on. We planned on eating in Thursday night, getting up early to meet our fishing guide, (we don't need one but it's nice for all of us to be able to fish and not worry about tackle or running the boat), eating out Friday night at the
Blue Moon Bistro, sleeping in a little on Saturday, then going up into the marsh to find some redfish at low tide, eating Saturday night at Beaufort Grocery, then topping off the festivities by having a final drink out at the Dockhouse. They wanted to leave today, Sunday, around 10:00 A.M., putting them back home by about 4:30. We also wanted to find time to build Jeff and new rod with a Dale Earnhardt theme.
By 8:00 P.M. Thursday, we were into the clam chowder we made from clams Scott, Cristina, Jane and me had raked up over their Labor Day visit. We put some tuna steaks on the grill and basted them with lime butter, had black beans and rice on the side along with a relish made of tomatoes, chiles, jalapenos and black-eyed peas. We shared some toddies and Jeff and Jane did the red wine thing. I think that Scott and I finally got to sleep about 2:30 and we had to leave the house by 6:30 so it was a short night. It was cool and crisp Friday morning-we crammed all our stuff in the car, grabbed a biscuit at the gas station, and met our guide, Greg, at Capt. Joe's shop on the causeway. He had a 23-foot Parker boat, plenty big enough for four fishermen and we took off out the inlet headed for the Cape Lookout Shoals. The key to albacore fishing is simple-look for birds, bait, busting fish and hundreds of boats trying to chase down the schools of these fast moving small tuna. They feed on small silverside minnows that school up in large bait balls-literally millions upon millions of these small baitfish hang in a tight knot and the albacore come busting through sending the bait into the air and sending the birds into a frenzy trying to eat the airborn bait-it is truly a sight to behold. All you do is cast whatever it is your fishing with into the melee and that usually results in a 15-20 pound fish making a 200 yard run in about 10 seconds. When someone asks me, I compare it to hooking a car going down the interstate at 65 MPH. We had a slow start-choppy seas and too many boats chasing small pods of fish made the catching tough. It was Patrick who got hot early and he had never caught one before. He landed a large majority of the fish caught in the morning, then he hit the wall-a product of a late night and a large time. He took an impromtu nap on the large cooler. The tide got slack around noon and all the boats suddenly disappeared-probably running in to grab a bite and wait for the tide to turn. When the tide turned and the fish showed up in droves, we were the only boat there. Greg kept us on the fish for a couple of hours and we hooked about 30 and landed about 20. We got some great pics of the fish and of the sun ducking under the horizon as we sped through the inlet. (Some pics are shown below-the rest of the story tomorrow).


Blogger Dash said...

Very cool! Looks and sounds like a blast. Glad you had a good time.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Eustace said...

It will not really have success, I feel this way.
wooden rings | map of Antarctica | tropical wallpaper

2:59 PM  

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